Figuring out child support can be an emotional and prolonged process, especially because an initial award may need to be adjusted. A recent case revisiting a child support order demonstrates some of the complications that can arise. In the case, a Texas father challenged the amount of child support a court had ordered him to pay. He also challenged the court’s order that he pay increased child support retroactively. Although the father was successful in his challenge to the retroactive support, the court upheld the monthly award amount, which the father will be required to pay moving forward.
In its opinion, the court first addressed the issue of the amount of child support to be paid. Texas law provides a set of guidelines to help the courts determine the appropriate amount of child support in any given case. The guidelines recommend a certain percentage of net monthly income based on the number of children a parent is obligated to support financially. For example, under the guidelines, a parent who is obligated to pay child support for three children will ordinarily be required to pay 30 percent of their net monthly income in child support. However, the law carves out a limit applicable to parents with significant resources.
When a parent’s monthly net resources exceed a certain amount as specified in the law, the percentage guidelines do not apply to the excess resources. The effect of this law is to set a presumptive upper limit on child support awards. But under Texas law, a judge can still choose to award additional child support based on each parent’s income and the children’s specific needs.
In this case, the father’s net resources had exceeded the statutory limit. However, the trial court had decided to apply the percentage guidelines to the father’s entire monthly net resources rather than just to the statutory limit. In upholding the child support award, the court focused on the fact that the mother’s income could be seen as insufficient to support the lifestyle to which the children were accustomed.
Changing course, the court then explained why the order for retroactive child support could not stand. Unlike the flexible guidelines for the amount of child support to be awarded, Texas law clearly states that existing support obligations cannot be changed before a parent receives notice of a legal challenge or appears in court for that challenge, whichever happens first. Therefore, the reviewing court said that the father could not be required to pay additional child support retroactively before the mother had filed for a change to the support order.
This case underscores the important fact that statutory guidelines are ultimately just guidelines. Judges have a legal right to order child support awards that differ from the guidelines. Whether you are a parent who pays or receives child support, an experienced family law firm can assist you in using these guidelines to support your position.
Contact Our Texas Family Law Firm Today
If you are a parent dealing with the difficult process of determining child support, contact the Guest & Gray Law Firm today. Our Texas family law team prides itself on providing parents with emotionally intelligent support during what can often be an uphill battle to achieve a fair outcome. For decades, we have offered parents just like you advice and representation on a variety of family law proceedings, including divorce, custody, and support cases. For a free consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys, call 972-564-4644 today. We represent clients in Rockwall, Dallas, Kaufman and Collin Counties.